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Obtaining a French Residence Permit : Procedures and Specifics

Certain procedures enable foreigners to come and reside legally on French territory by holding a residence permit, via procedures carried out with the French consular entities in the person’s country of residence or origin. If you are already in France in an irregular situation, you will need to define the appropriate application, and meet certain criteria.  MM Avocat guides you through the various requirements and procedures.

Depending on the residence permit you are applying for, the procedures and conditions will differ. Although it is not compulsory to turn to a lawyer, it is strongly advised to seek professional advice to ensure the best possible support.

In addition, depending on your nationality, the procedures will differ (this is particularly the case for nationals of Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and sub-Saharan Africa), depending on bilateral agreements between France and the national’s country of origin or residence. 

So make sure you get all the information you need before you apply, whatever the type of residence permit you are applying for.

Online applications for certain permits or renewals

Depending on your type of stay, you can complete the entire procedure for applying for or renewing your residence permit on the government website by clicking here.

Some residence permits can only be applied for online (website: here). This is the case if your application is linked to one of the following statuses: talent passport, visitor, student, beneficiary of international protection, family member of an EU/EEA/Swiss citizen; EU/EEA/Swiss citizen in employment, student, self-employed, retired or inactive. Applications can only be submitted via the dedicated website, and not at prefectures.

Article R431-5 of the Code de l’Entrée et du Séjour des Etrangers et du Droit d’Asile (CESEDA) specifies that online applications to renew residence permits must be submitted between 4 months and 2 months (“one hundred and twentieth day and the sixtieth day”) before the expiry of your current permit or long-stay visa.

Other requests are also made exclusively online:

  • duplicates of residence permits after loss or theft, or change of status; 
  •  travel documents for a beneficiary of international protection (BPI) ;
  • document de circulation pour étranger mineur (DCEM) ;
  • duplicates of residence permits after loss or theft, or change of status. 

Note: Requests for exceptional admission to stay (AES) that cannot be made online require scheduling an appointment with the prefectures to submit the documents.

French residence permits  

The five main categories of residence permit that allow you to stay in France legally are : 

  • long-stay visa ;
  • temporary ;
  • the multi-annual ;
  • resident card ;
  • the “retired” residence permit.

While your application is being processed, you will receive a receipt (récépissé).

Does a residence permit application receipt mean that I am legally resident?

When you apply for a residence permit at the prefecture, you receive a temporary residence document: the récépissé.

While the authorities are examining your application, this document will enable you to stay in France legally.

The récépissé is temporary (the expiry date is indicated on the document) and its duration is variable. It may be renewed in certain cases.

Please note that this does not guarantee that your residency application will be accepted by the administrative authorities.

Can I obtain a work permit with an application receipt?

The récépissé does not always authorize you to work, except in certain very specific cases. Infos-droits Étrangers summarizes here the categories of foreign nationals who can benefit from a work permit with an application for renewal or a first application for a current residence permit. Categories who can obtain a work permit with a récépissé : 

  • foreign nationals holding a “scientist-researcher” residence permit ;
  • foreign nationals holding a “private and family life” residence permit, EXCEPT if the permit was issued because of the foreign national’s strong ties to France or the illness for which he or she is receiving treatment in France;
  • foreign nationals benefiting from subsidiary protection and their families;
  • foreigners applying for a residence permit who have obtained three residence permits because they entered through family reunification 3 years ago;
  • foreigners applying for a residence permit who have obtained three residence permits as the spouse of a French national;
  • foreign nationals applying for an automatic residence permit ;
  • foreigners who have obtained their residence permit because they have filed a complaint for certain offences or because they have given evidence in criminal proceedings;
  • foreign beneficiaries of the “artistic and cultural profession” residence permit ;
  • foreign nationals holding an “employee”, “seasonal worker”, “employee on assignment” or “european blue card” residence permit. or “European Blue Card” residence permits.

For foreign nationals who have applied to renew their residence permit: The renewal application receipt authorizes you to work, if the first residence permit issued authorizes work. As long as your application is being processed by the authorities, your récépissé is renewed.

Bear in mind that this does not automatically mean that your application for a residence permit will be accepted. 

Can I travel with a residence permit application receipt if this is my first application?

In the vast majority of cases, the answer is no. If you leave French territory with a récépissé de première demande issued by a French prefecture, you will not be able to re-enter the Schengen area freely. 

Certain exceptions are granted. If you need to travel during this period for an imperative, contact a lawyer to find out whether you can travel. The prefecture will decide whether or not to authorize a return visa. But once again, this is rarely permitted.

If you travel without this authorization and wish to return to France, you will need to apply for a visa from the French embassy abroad.

Can I travel with an expired residence permit if I have a renewal receipt?

The answer is yes. With your expired residence permit and your renewal application receipt, you have the right to travel abroad and re-enter the Schengen area freely.

Temporary residence permits: who is concerned?

Certain categories of foreign nationals are entitled to a provisional residence permit, which enables them to prove that they are legally resident. Provisional residence permits have been introduced for :

  • on the one hand, foreigners who have graduated in France and want to stay on to gain initial professional experience;
  • secondly, for foreign nationals who, due to a serious medical situation, need to stay for several months in order to receive treatment.

That said, a provisional residence permit does not systematically lead to the issue of a residence permit.

Prefecture response times for residence permit applications

The prefecture has 4 months to reply to your application for a residence permit. If you don’t hear back within 4 months, the Prefecture’s failure to reply is deemed to be a rejection of your application. This also means that after this deadline, you can request an appeal. 

Note that whatever residence permit you apply for, you must not represent a threat to public order. 

The long-stay visa as a residence permit


In principle, all foreign nationals must obtain a residence permit to stay legally in France.

Long-stay visas enable foreigners to enter France legally, and are often requested for study, work or family reasons. Its duration varies from 3 months to one year, and is renewable. Upon application to the consular authorities of the country of origin or residence, the applicant may be granted residence in France, thanks to this document.

There are different types of long-stay visa, depending on the reason for the application, and the type and duration may vary.

The long-stay visa entitles the holder to the same rights as a residence permit, and authorizes the holder to work.

To find out more about the long-stay visa, (documents required, cost, steps, and other information, go to the public service website in the “long-stay visa” section by clicking here.

THE One-year residence permit

This temporary residence permit is valid for one year. It is often requested for “private life/family life” reasons, for non-European foreign nationals with family ties in France. It is also recommended for visitors, trainees, temporary workers and victims of human trafficking. This temporary residence permit is renewable if the conditions for which you obtained it are still met.

If you obtained your long-stay visa after marrying a French national, you will need to prove that you are still married, for example, when you renew your application.

If not all the conditions are met, certain cases may qualify for renewal. If you are in this situation, we strongly advise you to be accompanied by a lawyer to optimize your chances of obtaining a renewal, even if your situation has changed.

Depending on the case, you may be authorized to work with this residence permit. However, the conditions under which this residence permit is granted vary. For example, in some cases, you may be prohibited from traveling beyond a certain limit. These geographical and sometimes professional limits are not systematic.

To find out more about the one-year temporary residence permit (documents required, cost, steps, and other information, visit the public service website by clicking here ).

The multi-annual residence permit

Foreigners who have come to France on a long-stay visa can be issued with a multi-year residence permit valid for up to 4 years.

The duration can vary from 1, 2, 3 or 4 years, depending on the conditions of your application. For example, if you are a student with 2 years left to study, the authorities in charge of your file may decide to grant you a multi-annual residence permit for the remainder of your course, without giving you the maximum 4-year authorization.

Specific features of the multi-annual residence permit depending on the reason for your stay :

  • Family ties: Spouses of French nationals, parents of a minor French child residing in France, foreign nationals residing in France under the right to respect for private and family life, and foreign nationals who are ill will be issued with a 2-year residence permit;
  • Students: students will be issued with a card for the duration of their course.
  • Illness: Foreign nationals who are ill and hold a temporary residence permit can obtain a multi-year permit for the expected duration of treatment.

During the period of validity of your multi-annual residence permit, you must prove to the administrative authorities that the conditions for which you obtained this permit are still met. Otherwise, you risk being refused a renewal or having your residence permit withdrawn.

To find out more about the multi-annual residence permit, including the documents required, the cost, the steps involved and other information, visit the public service website by clickinghere.

THE 10-year resident card

The residence permit is valid for 10 years and is renewable. This residence permit gives you the right to work.

There are 3 types of resident card: 

  • Permanent resident card: This card is issued to foreigners who have been legally resident in France for at least five years and meet certain specific conditions.
  • Long-term EU resident card: This card is intended for nationals of the European Union (EU) or the European Economic Area (EEA) who have been legally resident in France for at least five years and meet certain conditions.
  • Resident’s card: This is the standard resident’s card, issued to foreign nationals who meet the required criteria and who do not specifically fall into one of the two above-mentioned categories.

You may be granted a residence permit for the first time, or to renew a temporary or multi-annual permit. It is often required for family ties with a French national (marriage, children), but also for foreigners who have benefited from international protection or have rendered service to France (e.g. enlistment in the Foreign Legion).

To find out more about the 10-year resident card (documents required, cost, steps, and other information) visit the public service website by clicking here.

THE Retired residence permit

The “carte de séjour retraité” is valid for 10 years and is renewable.

Foreigners who have worked in France, with a 10-year residence permit, and who live abroad while receiving a pension paid by the French state are eligible for this residence permit. 

Your spouse can also obtain a residence permit for the spouse of a pensioner if he or she has resided regularly with you in France. 

This gives you the right to travel freely between France and your country of origin and/or residence.

However, you are not authorized to stay continuously in France for more than one year. 

If you hold this residence permit but wish to live in France, you are eligible to apply for a carte de résident de plein droit.

To find out more about the “pensioner”/pensioner’s spouse residence permit (documents required, cost, stages, and other information) visit the public service website by clicking here.

N.B: this residence permit does not apply to Algerian nationals.


Whichever residence permit you wish to apply for, take the time to find out all you need to know before you start. Note that depending on the country of which you are a national, differences may apply. 

Take control of your residence permit process with the support of an experienced lawyer. Contact us today to discuss your situation and find out how we can support you effectively in your residence permit application.Make an appointment with Maître Maha Mohamed by calling or or by email


Version française de l’article ici.

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